The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph
Night crept upon the barren lands. A single orb shone through the darkness. The trio’s footsteps shuffled through dead leaves and down branches. Enne had much on her mind, finding Alejandro’s silence more deafening than usual. Silesta absorbed the serene atmosphere despite their conflicting feelings. She tried to ignore it but couldn’t for long, even after gazing at the starry night. She stopped once they reached a worn trail with apparent directions to the next stop. Alejandro sat on a downed tree and caught his breath. The pensive look on his face was all too apparent.
“Allie?” she spoke. “Silesta, hold on.”
“Did they say anything about me?” he asked. Her silence confirmed his suspicion. “I—Uh, haven’t always been honest….”
“No kidding. Now I understand why you didn’t want to get caught up.”
His thoughts trailed off. Enne sat next to him, waiting for a response that would never come. His heart writhed with guilt. He didn’t know where to begin with what went wrong. The wanderer didn’t know how she’d react if she understood the implications. The weight of his sins was too much to bear.
“Allie,” she whispered. “What’s in the past is the past. What we do now matters.”
“When you’ve damned generations,” he said before looking into her eyes. “How does one make amends for that?”
“Only you have the answer to that. Withering away was never the response. With everything you know now, you could make a difference.”
“It’s not just about knowing; it’s about reconciling.”
“Then—” Enne looked deep into his eyes. “Perhaps I should come clean.”
The wanderer’s eyes narrowed as she let the orb hover next to them. Her warm hands reached his. Enne looked at their clasped hands. The strange feeling of dread that coursed through her body couldn’t be confined to mere words. Her eyes trailed toward him though he remained expressionless.
“What?” he asked. Enne feigned a sheepish smile.
“There you go,” she replied. “Trying to analyze whatever I’m about to say.”
“I can… See parts of your past. It doesn’t always trigger, though.”
“Come on, En. You seem to have all the abilities.”
“So, it seems.”
The wanderer wasn’t convinced, but her demeanor hadn’t changed. He wondered what she saw within the confines of his mind. He reached out with his other hand when she let go. A meek gasp escaped her lips, finding a familiar curiosity.
“Then, name one thing.”
“I don’t have that kind of right.”
“Then when did it start?”
“The week that we first met.”
“But we didn’t—”
“I think it was more of a trigger, but later on, I was able to piece things together.”
“The time you almost died.”
“What did you see?”
Enne’s hesitation surprised Alejandro. Her eyes wandered off for a moment before closing them. When she opened them, she found he didn’t waiver from his question.
“You’ve never let go of her,” she finally said. “Even now, you think of her. Francesca seems to have left you such an impression. Sometimes I did get a little jealous, but she was part of what made you… You.”
“I never brought her up.”
“I reminded you of her.”
“Enne, wait. I—”
Enne’s softened smile disarmed him immediately.
“I’m not offended,” she insisted. “These are your memories, and you’re with me. I know you don’t love me any less. I’m just glad I could provide some level of comfort to you.”
“Why didn’t you say anything before?”
She shrugged off his question.
“What would be the point? It was never my place.”
“But you used it to your advantage, didn’t you?”
The glint in her lilac eye provided affirmation.
“You’ve always said that you were of no use. That you were gone the way of the dodo, yet the thing you try so hard to repress is what is more compelling than knowledge.”
“You’re not a machine, Allie. You were driven by what you felt was right when you became a wanderer. You sacrificed everything yet gained something, also.”
“And what’s that?”
“My love and admiration of the potential of the man you can be.”
Alejandro looked into the dark trail. His life was a winding path that led to many potential shortcuts but one destination. With what little time he had, what would he leave behind? Enne’s hand gently guided his chin toward her.
“It’s all to say, even a disruption in a river’s course eventually corrects itself.”
“You have way too much faith in me.”
“I—I think you can do it,” Silesta added before silencing herself.
“See? Enne smiled. “The Alejandro I know is the only person I see. Not once have you betrayed me since we’ve met.”
“You have a belief worth fighting for….” His words trailed into silence. She let out a brief chuckle.
“Is it not something you believe yourself? After all, you’ve had enough time to think about it. There’s nothing about being a wanderer or an elf regarding these things. It’s about what’s right. It’s not too late to change the world.”
“You’re hard to keep up with sometimes.”
Enne’s eyes drifted to the orb, watching its steady hovering. Her memories trickled in with what was.
“There was a point in time,” she said before her eyes returned to his. “When you and I would’ve seen eye-to-eye on many things.”
“I’ve heard stories.” He nodded. She raised an eyebrow.
“Oh? And what are these little stories you heard? What did Derek tell you? I’m actually surprised you never asked me.”
“It never mattered.”
“It never mattered?” she pouted. “You sure have a way with words!”
“I—I didn’t mean it like that.” He sighed. “What mattered was how you presented yourself. I would’ve never figured you weren’t always that way.”
“My ears were the only thing that separated me from my peers, and that’s what they used against me. In your case, your eyes get everyone’s stare, but what’s the difference? We share similar thoughts and feelings. I suppose a label dominates how the world sees us… Even though we were brought into this world without a say.”
“But I chose to be a wanderer.”
“So? You’re still Alejandro to me.”
“That’s hard to imagine.” Silesta’s soft voice drew their glances. “You seem like you’re natural at being all… enthusiastic.”
“My mother,” Enne continued. Her voice became bittersweet when she thought of her. “Before she passed away… Um, I’d often spend the day patrolling and helping. I wasn’t charming… Kind of like yourself, Allie. I know we have plenty of differences, but we both mean well, no? We integrated into a world that looked down upon us, but through our means, we pushed ahead.”
“The results varied.”
“My mother’s dying wish was to see a smile on my face. She meant everything to me, so I honored her wish. When I reflected on everything she had given, I resolved to carry on that torch she passed.”
“A guardian of hope?”
“Sometimes, you have to play a part despite whether you feel it’s over your head. With power and knowledge, it’s only right to carry out what others can’t. But…It’s getting late. We’ll stop when we’re halfway through so we can rest a little.”
Alejandro pondered her words as she stood. She led the way while he caught up. The bright light pierced through the dark path. Nature fell silent as they passed. After an hour, they came across a row of cabins by a small lake. The moon’s haunting glow filled the desolate area. Her ears perked but found nothing worth noting. Enne proceeded cautiously while approaching the first cabin. Her sensitive ears picked up something rustling on the upper floor.
“So, we aren’t alone,” Enne whispered before extinguishing the orb.
“En?” he asked.
“Take the bottom. I’ll take the top.”
“I meant that… No, not like that!”
Enne hopped onto the roof. Her landing was soft as she stabilized her footing. Alejandro stayed in place as he lost sight of her. She carefully walked along the cracked tiling before reaching the other end. The roof was caved in, and nestled within it was a nest-like structure. Enne kneeled after summoning an orb. The light revealed a peculiar sight. As Alejandro waited, he heard distant howls. As he listened to its strange distortion, these howls weren’t of typical quality. His eyes trailed toward the dense tree line, unable to discern whether they were being watched. Enne looked over when she heard.
“Allie,” she said. He looked up. “Let’s get inside. I’ve got something to show you.”
When the wanderer entered, he went to the top floor, finding it ruined by time and weather. Mold and rot had spread throughout, but the broken windows and the relatively untouched conditions below would make it acceptable for them to stay the night. Enne hopped down at the destroyed room. The orb hovered over the nest. He took a hard look as he approached.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“An egg,” she replied. “A big egg at that.”
The markings were distinctive on their brown, spotty surface. They kneeled over to examine it while it shifted subtly. Enne tried to touch it until he grabbed her hand. The wanderer discovered a childish glee on her face.
“Nope,” he said.
“What if—What if it’s a baby dinosaur?” she asked. His face remained expressionless.
“A baby…dinosaur?” Silesta asked.
“I won’t entertain that,” Alejandro shook his head. “But… Where it’s situated alludes to the idea that it could be a bird egg.”
“An Andean condor?”
“Too small. This thing is bigger than your—head?”
“That’s not what you wanted to say!”
“You’re trying to bait me, and it’s not working!”
“Okay… How about a dinosaur-bird hybrid?”
“Um, birds descended from dinosaurs.”
“Wow!” Silesta and Enne gasped.
“Enne, you knew that!” Alejandro rolled his eyes
“I don’t recall seeing large birds in the area, other than… The Snallygaster.”
Enne stroked her chin before exchanging glances with Alejandro. Something felt unsettling by the atmosphere around them. They watched as the egg gently shifted in its nest. Something was in the area.
“It’s going to be a long night,” Alejandro sighed. He saw the smile on her face. “What’s that face for?”
Later that night…
Alejandro’s eyes shot open upon feeling her hand over his mouth. Enne looked over him with her finger on her lips. Silesta crouched behind cover while observing the egg’s occasional shift. The twigs crunched beneath its porous surface. Her eyes were wary as her body shivered. Fluent machinery waltzed about, likely Ethoxian weaponry. Enne released her grip as she looked over her shoulder. Infrared sensors emitted below.
“These things were super quiet,” Enne whispered.
“But they can’t detect us,” he replied. Enne nodded.
“But they can tell if something is amiss.
“Then we should sneak out while we have the chance.”
“How about the egg?” Silesta expressed her concern about the continuously shifting egg. It was too large to lug around without being noticed. Alejandro shook his head.
“That’s not our concern,” he insisted.
“Allie, don’t break the little girl’s heart,” Enne protested.
“We’re not being serious right now, are we? Those things will do more than break anyone’s heart if we don’t take our chance to run.”
“Then… I’ll carry it.”
“Nope, it’s settled. I’m going to— Oh, shit!”
The egg finally hatched. The couple turned to it and saw something between the shell’s cracked halves. Enne summoned an orb, but the creature sprung over the edge. Enne sighed before turning to Alejandro. Without utterance, he nodded his head.
“What the hell!” she muttered.
“We’ll go ahead of you,” he said before turning to the young elf. “Silesta… Let’s go.”
“I’ll try to keep their attention while looking for whatever it is.”
“Oh, we know.” Alejandro flashed a smile. “Be careful.”
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